Monday, August 30, 2004

Thank You Steven

Steven Den Beste is done blogging.

His posts on history and the Middle East were some of the best in the blogosphere. That's why it's such a shame to see him go. He influenced my opinion and was one of the principle people online who made me realize what we were really fighting for.

His Strategic Overview is absolute, must read material.

Thank You, Steven.

Winning the War on Terror

Dave Schuler has a quote by President Bush on if we can win this war.
When asked “Can we win?” the war on terror, Bush said, “I don’t think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the — those who use terror as a tool are — less acceptable in parts of the world.”
I don't think that that is "too nuanced" as Dave says, I just think George doesn't go far enough. Alright, say, a future president somehow persuades militant Islamist organizations (al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the like) to swear off terror attacks as an offensive weapon. Does that mean that we have won the war? What happened to the grand "ideological struggle that will take generations"? Are we not fighting a Islamist movement that hates everything we stand for and wants us destroyed?

I understand that Kerry doesn't get that, but it seems to me that Bush is wavering too nowadays. To me, this war is bigger than both of them. If I felt that Kerry was stronger in prosecuting it, I would not hesitate to vote for him. I have yet to fully make up my mind, because I disagree with a tremendous amount of Bush's domestic policies, but the WoT trumps them all. I wish that somehow like John McCain had become president, but he didn't. I can sit here and bitch and moan, but my choice is stark: John F. Kerry or George W. Bush.

UPDATE: We can't forget that these people can't be comprised with. Now comes word that the Taliban has bombed a school in the Afghan city of Zormat, killing nine children. Despicable.

UPDATE II:Robert Tagorda adds some context to Bush's statement.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Jeb in 2008?



Juan A. Hervada has a very good post on Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and how his policies are playing into the hands of jihadists that want to reclaim Al Andalus (Spain). I highly recommend reading it.

I also wrote a little about all of this back in March after the train bombings.
To the Muslim, once a land has been conquered in Jihad, that land is forever Muslim. It doesn't matter if someone reconquers it and claims it as their own, the land remains theirs. If the Muslim's had it once, they will "by the will of Allah" have it again. They might fight one war, ten wars, fifty wars, a thousand and lose each time, but one day they will fight the thousand and oneth war and win. The House of Truce is always a temporary situation which might turn to their advantage in the next battle that is fought. Any lands already conquered are in the land of Islam, any not conquered yet, are in the House of War.

Keyes for SecState?

So says the Final Historian.
I have heard to the effect that Colin Powell was going to resign as Secretary of State should President Bush be re-elected. I think that there is a good chance that if Bush is re-elected, and Powell steps down, that Alan Keyes may be nominated in his place. This assumes of course that Keyes fails to win the Senate seat in Illinois.

Keyes has as much chance of becoming Secretary of State in a second term Bush administration as Noam Chomsky does. Seriously, he's turned into quite the kook lately, even being assailed by prominent GOP members as well as Democrats. Why is he a kook? Well here are some of the things he's said recently.
Keyes has announced his plan to bring home the black vote when he proposed that for a generation or two, African-Americans of slave heritage should be exempted from federal taxes--federal because slavery "was an egregious failure on the part of the federal establishment." (Chicago Tribune)
He also wants to end popular elections of Senators. And he likened abortion rights activists to slaveholders! No wonder Obama is beating Keyes 65% to 21% (a 41% margin!). Ryan, who dropped out of the race last month due to a sex scandal, would get 31% in a hypothetical matchup opposite Obama.

I don't really see what other qualifications Keyes has for such a high level cabinet position.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

16 Year Old Iranian Girl Hanged

From Amnesty International comes this absolutely sick story:
Amnesty International today expressed its outrage at the reported execution of a girl believed to be 16 years old for “acts incompatible with chastity”. Ateqeh Rajabi was reportedly publicly hanged on a street in the city centre of Neka, northern Iran, on 15 August 2004.

Amnesty International is alarmed that this execution was carried out despite reports that Ateqeh Rajabi was not believed to be mentally competent, and that she reportedly did not have access to a lawyer at any stage.

During the trial the judge allegedly severely criticised her dress, harshly reprimanding her. It is alleged that Ateqeh Rajabi was mentally ill both at the time of her crime (having sexual relations outside of wedlock) and during her trial proceedings. (via Blogs of War)
John Little writes:
The government of Iran is seriously out of touch with the youth and other moderate elements of it’s society.
I don't think the problem, in this case, is the government being out of touch with the youth. It's that the government of Iran is a medieval theocracy with a strict form of shariah as its penal code. News like this needs to get wider attention in the international media.

US Warplanes Enter Iranian Airspace

These are unconfirmed reports, of course. But the Persian Journal report seem pretty credible:
Five US warplanes entered Iran’s air space last Thursday night from the southwestern Shalamcheh border and flew over the city of Khorramshahr for a while, press reports said Tuesday.

According the Persian daily Seday-e Edalat, ‘the jet fighters which flew at high speed and altitude, then headed to the Arvand River’.

“They flew at a height of 10 kilometers and maneuvered over Khorramshahr for a while,” the paper said.

“While the objective behind the fighters’ violation of the Iranian air space is not known yet, some military specialists believe such moves are aimed at assessing the sensitivity of the Islamic Republic’s anti-aircraft defense system,” it added.
(hat tip: Alphabet City)

Lack of Topics

I've foregone blogging the past few days because there's really been nothing to blog about. There's the never ending Swiftboat/Kerry controversy. I have made it a point not to talk about it at all, because frankly, I don't care. This is the first presidential election since 9/11. The country has taken a dramatic turn since then and the two candidates for the most important office in the world are stuck in the past. It's not enough that John Kerry and George Bush have barely marginal policy differences regarding Iraq, but it's another thing to ignore the issues completely and argue arcane points about whether Kerry was in Cambodia on Christmas of 1968 or not. If Kerry lied about that, he lied. But I am not going to base my vote on that. I am going to base my vote on who I think will best protect this country now.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Belgravia Dispatch Weighs In on Iran

Gregory Djerejian adds his opinion to the growing number of bloggers discussing the Iranian situation. His post is quite good, but I feel I need to comment on parts of it.
So, with the U.S. less likely to take any preemptive action, might Israel (whom Teheran suspects has perhaps received a green light from Washington to do so--an erroneous analysis, in my view) instead?
The question of whether Israel would actually strike the Iranian nuclear sites at Bushehr and Natanz hasn't had much discussion in either the blogosphere or the media. I think by now many see it as a foregone conclusion that Israel will hit Iran and that it's only a matter of when (not if). I, too, have held that view for some time, but recently its shifted. For reasons Gregory nicely lays out in his post, an Israeli strike would do much more harm than good.
...An Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, apart from increasing the prospects of a regional conflagration (including in the Levant, it should be noted), would actually serve to increase our difficulties in Iraq.

Shi'a radicalization will increase dramatically if Sharon strikes Iran and Sadr (or the memory of a martyred Sadr) will benefit with legions of new volunteers entering the fray and picking up arms against coalition forces.

Nor do I think that Bush would want Sharon to attack pre-election, as Creveld speculates. The risks of a major regional escalation (and of a more active and naked Iranian scuttling role in Iraq) would likely prove a net negative for Bush in the election. Put differently, when the cup looks to really runneth over--some fence-sitters or distraught voters will look to vote Kerry calculating he will be the guy to pull our troops out of the entire (increasingly chaotic) 'region' more expeditiously.

No, my best guess is that the U.S. is going to try to drag this entire Iran mess into the UNSC in the coming half year or so--with the Brits, French and Germans continuing to be active participants in a soi disant 'muscular' multilateral approach that aims to at least make the going somewhat tougher for Iran to go nuclear. The danger with this strategy, of course, is NoKo policy paralysis on the Iran question too.
Unfortunately, I think that the Iranian's have called our bluff. The United States is not, as Gregory points out above, going to engage in any aggressive action (or give Jerusalem a green light) before the election. The election will come down to a few thousand votes most likely and an attack on Iran could flip them in favor of John Kerry. Most Republicans and Democrats in Washington realize this fact also. That's the reason why Bush has opted to go completely multilateral in regards to Iran and is also keeping rhetoric surprisingly non-imflammatory. What happens if Kerry wins the Presidency? I highly doubt that even if he felt that the Iranian issue needed to be dealt with militarily right away that he would have the political will to do it. Actually, the same goes for Bush although to a lesser degree.
But revolutions come and go; governments come and go. No one is hyper-sanguine that Pakistan has nuclear weapons merely because cuddly Pervez is running the store in Islamabad. A 'friendly' future government in Iran could become decidely unfriendly later. And, of course, if Iran goes nuclear (whatever the government in power); Saudi Arabia will increasingly feel she needs a nuclear capacity as well....
You know, I've heard the argument that a nuclear Iran will spur the creation of a nuclear Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but I'm not sure how much of it I buy. After all, Saddam was about a year away from a nuke in 1991 after the Gulf War, yet the Saudi's never made a push for nuclear weapons. And it's not as if they are foreign to wanting the bomb for they pushed billions of dollars of funding into Pakistan so the Pakistani's could have an "Islamic Bomb." Relations between the Saudi's and Iranian's are good and most of Tehran's venom is directed at Israel and not other Islamic States.

More Iran News

This is breaking news of sorts, but Iran has just contracted with Russia to build more nuclear reactors. This severely complicates diplomatic solutions currently sought by the United States and European Union.

BRUSHING aside US accusations that it wants to build atomic weapons, Iran said today it has contracted Russia to build more nuclear power plants, while claiming two European countries have also expressed interest in helping construct similar facilities.

Russia is rebuilding Iran's first nuclear reactor, which was begun by West Germany but interrupted during the 1979 Islamic revolution. Damage caused to the facility in Bushehr, a coastal town in southern Iran, during the 1980-88 war with Iraq also led to its inauguration being postponed from last year to August 2006.

Despite the delays and the project's $US800 million ($1.1 billion) cost, Iranian nuclear officials say they want Russia to build more nuclear reactors to help generate greater amounts of electricity.

"We have contracts with Russia to build more nuclear reactors. No number has been specified, but definitely our contract with Russia is to build more than one nuclear power plant," Asadollah Sabouri, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran in charge of nuclear power plants, told reporters.
Upon reading this, I can't help but wonder what the hell Vladimir Putin is thinking? With tensions between Iran and Israel at a fever pitch, what does Russia get by this? Well, yes, money of course. But Putin has to realize that this development could concievably bring Russia in the middle of an explosive situation. Apparently, Iran has now delayed opening its Bushehr nuclear reactor until at least 2006. This was done presumably to try and get Israel not to attack the reactor (remember, Israel waited until Saddam turned the Osirak reactor online, before the air raid was ordered).

The situation is still developing at this hour.

UPDATE: Styguis comments here.

Saturday, August 21, 2004


Centerfield has two really intriguing posts dealing with the WoT that I reocommend everyone read.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Rising Israeli-Iranian Tensions

Tensions Escalate Between Israel, Iran

That's the stark headline on Yahoo News:
JERUSALEM - Iran threatened this week to attack Israel's nuclear facilities. Israel ominously warned that it "knows how to defend itself." Tensions between the two arch enemies have suddenly escalated, underlining the other great enmity that has been bubbling on the sidelines of the Arab-Israeli conflict for more than two decades.

Suspicions that the Iranian regime is moving forward with a nuclear arms program deeply worry Israel, which considers Iran the greatest threat to the Jewish state. Israeli officials say they want to avoid escalating the situation, however, and there is no sign Israel is building up for an attack like the one that destroyed Iraq (news - web sites)'s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.

Experts say the two countries are unlikely to go to war anytime soon, despite the heated-up rhetoric coming out of Iran and the intensified efforts by Israel to isolate the Iranian regime diplomatically.
This doesn't bold well for the situation. Now Iran is openly treatening to attack Israel's nuclear sites and it shouldn't be taken as a bluff because Iran is equipped with the medium range Shahab-3 missle.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

The War of Ideas Part II

Earlier this month I wrote about the war of ideas.
I believe that this current war is not a war against terrorism, because terrorism is a tactic and it has always existed in one form or another. This war is a war against a totalitarian ideology that seeks Western Civilization's downfall.
Well, today I stumble upon this WoC post upon the questions facing us in the war against Islamism and what, if any, our options are. I think the post and subsequent comment section is a must read.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Sudan Policy

The other day I posted a list of articles on Sudan that I deemed must reads. In it I said that I would post an analyses on what we can do regarding the Darfur situation.

Answer: not much.

Unfortunately, short of an invasion, we can't really accomplish a complete halt to the massacres. The US, UN and EU are threatening sanctions against the Islamist regime in Khartoum. France, yet again, opposes any kind of sanctions to be imposed by the UN. The BBC link also includes this snippet:
France led opposition to US moves at the UN over Iraq. As was the case in Iraq, France also has significant oil interests in Sudan.

Mr Muselier [Junior French Foreign Minister] also dismissed claims of "ethnic cleansing" or genocide in Darfur.
Surprise, surprise. Look, I agree with Mr. Muselier in that sanctions won't really do much of anything to stop the genocide, if anything, Sudan may increase and/or widen its genocide campaign (see, Iraq after GW1) and the sanctions will serve to further entrench the regime itself. The only way I can see the killing be put to an end is a military intervention.

The United States will have to lead any future humanitarian mission and that looks doubtful due to the overstreched nature of the US military. Neither Presidential Candidate has said much regarding it and even if action could be taken, it being a election year and the race so close, Bush doesn't want to do any kind of major action. However, Britain and Australia have pledged about 7,000 troops if needed and that is very admirable. But without us in the lead, those troops won't be going anywhere. I also think the Sudan case can be applied directly to Iran. The lack of international motivation to stop an ongoing genocide that might kill between 500,000 and a million people, despite the ghosts of Rwanda floating around in the media, shows that there will not be broad international support for any sort of action against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Assuming all of this, what else is there to do?

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Neo Cons

It seems like a lot of talk around the blogosphere the past 2 days is about this fascinating (and long) article by Francis Fukuyama entitled "The Neoconservative Moment" in the current issue of The National Interest. I have neither the time nor energy to critique it all but several others have done the job for me (here, here, here, and here)

Seriously, this is a must, must read. It doesn't matter whether you supported the war or not, it needs to (hopefully) be a catalyst for more intensive foreign policy discussion. Not just on whether the Iraq War was wrong, but the whole "neoconservative" grand strategy of democratizing the Middle East at gun point.

What do you think?

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Sudan Must Reads

While all this talk about Iran is going on (and rightly so), the news regarding Sudan is a little less talked about. As most know, there is a genocide going on orchestrated by the Sudanese government in the western Darfur region.


I have complied a list of articles and posts on the Darfur genocide and Khartoum's extensive ties to al Qaeda:

Read all of these and then you'll have a much clearer understanding of what exactly is happening and what, if anything we can do to stop it. Tomorrow I'll post a continuation of this on the latter part.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Iran Again

Ideofact points to this article by NY Times columnist Nick Kristof. In it he worries about the possibility of a nuclear device being detonated inside the US within the next 10 years. Such fears are fairly common among various bloggers, but it is rare to see such a frank discussion of them in public, let alone in the world's most read newspaper. With the spread of nuclear materials becoming more and more common place and know-how being disseminated down, you don't have to be a Los Alamos scientist to make a crude nuclear weapon.

A nuclear armed Iran poses not only a geopolitical threat to the region, but also a danger that they might let "slip" a weapon to al Qaeda or Hezbollah to use against America or Israel, respectively. This was a common argument used when talking about the North Korea nuclear program due to how cash straped they are. But it takes on an entirely new siginificance in the case of Iran, who is currently harboring a lot of the remaining leadership of al Qaeda (including military commander Saif al-Adel in Tehran itself). Not to mention, their control over Hezbollah and their expressed intent to nuke Israel no matter if they get nuked in retaliation (for Israel would be destroyed and the Muslim world would still be standing):
"If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world", Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani [former President of the Islamic Republic]
Now, that is a scary quote by itself and it's even scarier because Rafsanjani is still one of the most powerful people in Iran.

Also: Siddharth Mohandas (filling in for Dan Drezner this week) writes about what the real options regarding Iran actually are. Matt Yglesias also weighs in with thoughts of his own.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Other October Surprise

No, I'm not talking about the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden.

I'm talking about the increasingly tense situation regarding the Iranian nuclear program. Rob and I have been discussing it in the comments of a post I made below. He links to this post Winds of Change that deals with this very subject. Commenter Mark Buehner sums up the consequences of a nuclear armed Iran:
It cannot be overstated how devasting a nuclear armed Iran would be to our security and foriegn policy.
There is a scary meme developing (particularly in Europe) that Iran's nuclear program is simply a deterrant to the US, and hence no real problem. We're going to start hearing that is growing murmurs. It must be addressed.
Iranian mullahs have publicly advocated using nuclear weapons on Israel and accepting the responsding strike. Big Satan, Little Satan folks. Even if by some miracle, Iran doesnt use or distribute its nukes, the leverage that such a deterrant would create in the region is chilling. These maniacs are blatantly taking on an angry US in Iraq without nukes, what will they do with that trump card?
This is critical.
Then there's this:
Iran has issued an extraordinary list of demands to Britain and other European countries, telling them to provide advanced nuclear technology, conventional weapons and a security guarantee against nuclear attack by Israel.
Wow. The level of utter defiance leaves me speechless.

Monday, August 09, 2004

The War of Ideas

As an offshoot of my earlier post on why I blog, I have decided to explain a bit more about my interests. As you probably all know, I am a political junkie. But I also love to study history. A keen interest of mine has been to study the mass ideological movements of the 20th century and the thinkers behind them. You know communism has Karl Marx, fascism has Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler of course, but I didn't know know who the theoritical founder of radical Islamism was until earlier this year. Sayyid Qutb is not a household name by any means and ask why that is. His influence was huge during his time in the Egpytian Muslim Brotherhood and expanded greatly after he was "martryed" by Nasser in 1966. Bill at Ideofact has been my primary inspiration to studying who and what Sayyid Qutb was about. His commentaries on Qutb's Milestones and Social Justice in Islam are bar none the best I've seen anywhere online. Check him out.

I believe that this current war is not a war against terrorism, because terrorism is a tactic and it has always existed in one form or another. This war is a war against a totalitarian ideology that seeks Western Civilization's downfall (I hope that isn't a mischaracterization on my part). The problem I have most with this war is the lack of articulation from both sides of the aisle. I worry that people don't understand this war. We can defeat al Qaeda tomorrow, but what would that really do? Nothing. There will eventually be another group that takes its place. Our goal is to defeat the ideology that breeds such levels of hate. Radical Islamism will take time and patience to defeat, that goes without question, indeed, President Bush has mentioned the fact that it will take "generations" to defeat.

I've seen many commenters over the past few years talk about the fear that we'd expand our engagement to encompass large swathes of the Middle East, turning it into a Dresden-like campaign. I don't see it, really. There very well might be a nuclear attack against an American or Western city within the next few years, but our retaliation will be measured. We aren't going to turn the ME into a glass parking lot. But if we don't correctly understand the true nature of our enemy, we'll be more likely to go overboard.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

The Iran Issue

I've blogged about the urgency of the Iranian nuclear issue before here, here, and here. I've been critical of both President Bush and John Kerry for not presenting the American public with a clear strategy regarding Iran. But then Kerry, obviously hearing my call for a strategy, comes up with one. It's too bad that it's totally insane:
It is critical that we work with our allies to resolve these issues and lead a global effort to prevent Iran from obtaining the technology necessary to build nuclear weapons. Iran claims that its nuclear program is only to meet its domestic energy needs. John Kerry's proposal would call their bluff by organizing a group of states to offer Iran the nuclear fuel they need for peaceful purposes and take back the spent fuel so they cannot divert it to build a weapon. If Iran does not accept this offer, their true motivations will be clear.(via Crushing Dissent)
How is that a productive strategy? And how would we be able to trust them? [We trusted the North Koreans -- ed. Yeah, and look how that turned out. Point taken.]

UPDATE: Frequent blogosphere commenter Praktike links to this article and subsequent discussion on Tacitus's site.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Why I Blog

I'm am not a prolific blogger at all, I think that is clear by anyone who reads The Urban Empire. I've been reading blogs everyday for about 2 years now and only started this blog this past March. I've never really intended it to get any spectacular hit stats. Indeed, I am extremely grateful for every hit I get.

Kim du Toit offers some tips for the new blogger. I generally agree with it and I felt like I need to address why I blog. First and foremost, I blog for myself. I blog to get my thoughts out. It helps a lot to formulate my opinions. Yes, I do enjoy an audience and people like FH who take the time out to comment.

Friday, August 06, 2004

The Islamic Mind

Whoa, boy. I really do need to stop leaving so many gaps in between my postings. Hopefully I get into a rhythm soon enough.

I've spent this past week studying the thinkers of Islamic Fundamentalism. Namely, Sayyid Qutb. Thanks to Bill Allison's Qutb Series I've been trudging through his chapter summaries for both of Qutb's books Social Justice in Islam and Milestones. I was awed by the man who is said to be the brain of Osama bin Laden (indeed, bin Laden studied Muhammed Qutb, Sayyid's brother, in Saudi Arabia after the Muslim Brotherhood fled Nasser's Egypt). I went to the library and picked up 4 books:
  1. Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman (yes, I know. I'm just now getting around to reading it)
  2. Social Justice in Islam by Sayyid Qutb
  3. Inside al Qaeda by Rohan Gunaratna (which Dan Darling tells me is the definite book on al Qaeda out of the many hundreds of post-9/11 AQ books)
  4. The Crisis of Islam by Bernard Lewis (I've heard so many recommendations for this book, how could I not pass it up)